The Microsoft Office suite and basic coding once were prerequisites for every IT manager. Basic digital literacy has ushered in a new set of core competencies, however. One of those modern competencies is proficiency with big data.
Colleges are training on better data literacy, and businesses are demanding it. There’s a good reason why data literacy and analytics are being stressed: Businesses have more data than ever before, thanks to cloud services, the internet of things, distributed computing and other trends such as wearables and cheap sensors. Facility with big data is now not just something for data scientists; it is something every IT manager needs to know.
That doesn’t mean every IT manager needs robust familiarity with tools such as Hadoop, MapReduce, HBase and Pig, although it is helpful. What’s needed is a more generalized understanding of how to use and extract information from big data—and the soft skills that make big data potent. A recent report by Forrester Research, Invest In The Next-Generation Technology Skills Required For Digital Business, noted that employees need the hard skills but also a range of soft skills such as communication, empathy, curiosity and creativity in today’s IT environment.
“Non-technical skills are just as essential as technical skills for every IT manager in a big data environment,” says James Rogers, the director data and analytics at the consultancy, Ad Victoriam Solutions.
Here are six skills every IT manager should know for handling big data–some hard skills, and others on the softer side.
1. Business Awareness
One soft skill critical for handling big data is understanding a company’s business so big data use cases are intelligent.
“Understanding the business an IT manager supports drives more success in big data environments,” stresses Rogers at Ad Victoriam. “This provides better decision-making around technology selection, employment and resource assignments. Big data should not be a solution looking for a problem. It should be the inverse.”
The ability to understand, articulate, and respond to business challenges with big data is hugely important, adds Sri Raghavan, senior analytics product manager at big data firm, Teradata.
Knowing the specifics of the business challenges and understanding when to use big data is a very important and often understated skill, he says.
2. Big Picture Consciousness
A second important big data skill, also on the soft side, is awareness of strategic priorities and what else is going on inside the business. Good use of data requires a wide view of the data being produced, where it is stored, and future opportunities in the pipeline.
“An IT manager should understand the broader landscape of the projects in the pipeline and technologies and skillsets available,” says Rogers. “This prevents replicating the data silo mistakes of past implementations, and it enhances cross-functional data applicability for big data solutions.”
3. Data Structure Familiarity
Competency with messy and diverse data is one of the biggest problems that businesses face around big data, according to a separate Forrester report, Big Data Fabric Drives Innovation And Growth. Many businesses surveyed for the report said a lack of competency in this area delayed or deferred their big data expansion.
Every IT manager needs to understand the different types of data structures and the tools best for using them, according to Rogers and others. This is now an essential IT skill.
“Understanding the difference between structured, semi-structured and unstructured data is key to matching the technologies and skillsets best suited to solve the problem,” says Rogers. “Big data is not just a data volume concept, it is a data structure concept.”
4. Facility with Data Collection APIs
APIs are now the standard way to connect information systems, and they are instrumental for work with big data. IT managers, therefore, need both an understanding and working knowledge of how to use data collection APIs to get at data and combine it with other information streams.
“APIs are critical to accessing the much-needed set of diverse data for richer analytics,” says Raghavan at Teradata. “This is an important, though easy to obtain, skill.”
5. Analytics Design
Using big data can be tricky. Seeking answers with large data sets requires more than just facility with aggregating data. It also requires good design.
IT managers should learn how to properly design analytics for actionable outcomes. Data that supports actionable outcomes is far more useful than metrics that are interesting but hard to use in practice.
“Aggregates and averages have limited functional value on large data sets,” notes Rogers. “Questions such as ‘Which entities are not meeting the target KPI value’ are generally far more actionable than ‘What is the average or total of all entities for the KPI,’” he says. “Proper analytics design, leveraging big data solutions, should make getting actionable information easier and faster.”
6. Proper Use Case Development
Finally, an important skill when working with big data is knowing how to put together a proper use case for the data.
“Understanding business needs and materializing functional and technical requirements is a key skill that is often overlooked,” says Rogers. “This helps avert, ‘Not what I said, what I meant’ feedback, and it drives higher levels of success for big data solutions.”
This dovetails on business awareness, also an essential skill, but takes it further by knowing how to put together a proper use case for the data.
There are other skills that can serve IT managers well in our big data world, including a firm grasp on archival strategy, knowing reporting capabilities and competency with design thinking, among others. These six skills are arguably top of the list, however—a list that gets longer as big data plays an increasingly important role in enterprise operations.
About the Author
Peter Kowalke is journalist and editor who has been covering business, technology and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years. When not writing, he runs Kowalke Relationship Coaching.
Source: SANS ISC SecNewsFeed @ February 28, 2017 at 06:16PM